When you're shopping for a cruise, reviews can be really helpful in bringing a certain ship and its atmosphere into focus: what kind of folks were on board? How did they dress for dinner? Was the staff as helpful as the brochures promise?
The good news: There are tons of cruise reviews on the Internet, on pretty much any ship sailing the waters. The bad news? There are so many—and the reviews themselves can be so long and detailed—it can quickly get overwhelming.
One important note: Most of the cruise review sites are comprised of write-ups by a mix of travel-agents (or "travel professionals") and regular travelers, so it’s always good to make sure that a review you’re reading is meant to help you, and not just sell you. Here are the biggest sites out there:
The king of review sites, there's as much detail here as you could imagine. You can scan the Cruiser's Choice awards—for winners such as Best Cruise Ship Cabins—as well as read both detailed reviews by members (a lot of agents) and Virtual Cruises, where you get to see a member's slideshow and captions (about, say, a Carnival cruise out of Whittier, with a play-by-play of how a mother and daughter spent their days, down to onboard movies and the price of a shipboard latte).
This site separates reviews by travel professional from those by regular travelers, thought the regular traveler reviews may be most helpful—with specific comments and complaints, from food quality to the number of deck chairs near the pool. There's not much detail, however, on Alaska, other than an overview of common ports.
This site offers an easy way to wade through a bunch of long reviews: it has a search option where you can click on a ship's name and see headlines of the reviews—and the date it was written (some are more than 10 years old, so perhaps not so helpful).
This big travel site has cruise review information in its Forums section, though you will mostly find targeted questions and answers from other travelers—such as recommendations about shore excursions or finding wifi. For searches, the site may punt you to CruiseCritic.
This is a much more of a travel agency sales site, but you can find quick, concise reviews with pros and cons listed for a ship—easy for quick assessments.
The renowned travel guide site does an easy-to-digest, pros-and-cons-style summaries of all of the cruise lines.
This blog is by a travel guide writer, so she’s not selling these cruises, and she has a personable, easy-to-read style. She’s also just one person, but she has a page of links to other similar cruise blogs.